Trucks are one of the most dangerous vehicles on the road NOT because of their size – but due to their blind spots. A lot of people think that just because truckers sit high up, that they can see everything. In contrast, they have limited vision due to the size of their vehicle. These blind spots are so wide, that smaller vehicles (such as cars) need to protect themselves because they will remain invisible to truck drivers unless they get out of these no-zones.
But where are these blind spots exactly, and what are the safest methods to share the road with trucks?
#1 Avoid Tailgating
Tailgating means following too close behind a vehicle (in this case, a truck). This is highly risky because you are directly in the truck’s no-zone. So if the driver makes a sudden stop, unexpectedly drops the load, or makes a turn, you will put under terrible risk.[insert blind spot image]
Your best bet is to remain within a safe distance (about 20 to 25 car lengths) from the truck – longer, in bad weather conditions (such as during snowy, rainy, or windy days). Another reason why you shouldn’t tailgate is that it affects your line of sight, too. Following close behind means you won’t be able to see oncoming traffic; which is bad if you want to change lanes or pass ahead of the truck. So keep your distance!
#2 Always Pass on the Left
For countries that use left-side driving, it’s recommended to ALWAYS pass on the left. Why? Truck drivers have total blind spots on their right. Even so, do overtake large vehicles with extra care. Go faster and don’t hesitate (if you do, the truck driver will get confused and you’ll be a road hazard). Pass carefully and quickly. Then, follow rule number one by maintaining a wide gap between you both. Don’t forget to signal!
**Note: Look at the truck’s left or right side mirrors. If you can see the driver, odds are, he or she can see you, too! If you cannot, move quickly until you are either in front of the truck, or way behind it. Again: distance is key!
#3 Make Noise
When necessary, it’s okay to let the trucker know of your existence by honking your horn. Often, this is the only way for smaller vehicles to get a truck’s attention (especially during lane change). Do this when passing a truck’s blind spot so the driver will know you are there.
#4 Never Cut Quickly in Front of a Truck
Not only is this illegal in some states, but you endanger yourself AND the trucker. Surprise cuts don’t give trucks enough time to hit the brakes or slow down for you. Keep in mind that these massive vehicles weigh TONS. If the timing is wrong, they may end up colliding with your car’s rear end. Proper timing is vital: give the signal that you want to pass, then do it fast enough while giving trucks enough room.
#5 Be Patient
These practices may seem redundant: but they will save you – and the trucker – from fatal injuries. In fact, truck accidents are rare: from more than 3,800 road fatalities in 2012, about 200 are from truck-related incidences. And these are normally caused by bad weather and/or driver error. That means it’s highly possible to PREVENT truck accidents by following safety rules and being patient. Trucks are NOT cars. So their vehicle’s performance is not as quick or smooth as that of regular autos.
When the time comes that a truck needs to go ahead of you, flash your headlights to let them know it’s okay. Believe it or not, you just made someone’s day – and kept the highway safe.